In-Depth

Tough Training -- Boot Camp-style

Going to a boot camp is one way to get Windows 2000-certified. But is that the best way? An MCP Magazine editor does the computer equivalent of Parris Island and reports from the front lines.


Boot camps are like no other type of IT training. Stuffing knowledge that often takes six months or longer to acquire into a two-week box takes more than a shoehorn. The pace is frenetic, and free time is an alien concept. All your energies must be focused on the one goal: earning your certification. If that focus wavers for a moment, you’re finished.

Some people think boot camps are a great idea, others think they’re just another shortcut to getting certification without actually learning anything that’ll help you in a day-to-day IT job. At MCP Magazine, we’ve heard both sides of the story, so we decided to find out for ourselves if MCSE boot camps are worth the sizable investment in both time and money. Are they too intense? Do you gain anything of value? Are they nothing more than accelerated certification mills that take your cash, prep you for seven tests, then leave you to figure out how to do this stuff in real life?

I was chosen from among the MCP staff because I obtained an MCSE under NT 4.0 and worked in a large IT department for about six months. My technical background is less than stellar. Would my training and experience be enough to get me through?

Intense School, which is a regular advertiser in MCP Magazine, extended me an offer to attend a boot camp at one of its three schools nationwide. Intense waived the $8,490 fee for the school. It’s important to note that Intense waived the $8,490 fee for the school but had no input into this article.

“I’m a Career Changer”
Before beginning camp, I did a little test. I called one day and posed as a schoolteacher wanting to switch careers and get my MCSE. I said I’d used computers a lot, but had no other background.

“Any networking experience?” the voice on the other end asked me. I told her no.

She responded that the MCSE boot camp wouldn’t be for me. “Our boot camp is for the IT professional who’s working in the industry. It wouldn’t be the greatest route for you. You could do an A+ or Network+ certification instead. You want to start out a little slower than this. You need at least a year or year-and-a-half of hands-on experience to do this type of training.”

Score one for Intense School. It wasn’t going to let an unqualified applicant into a boot camp, as some schools will. And her suggestion of going for A+ or Network+ first was quite sensible.

Then I asked her what an MCSE means in terms of getting a job in IT.

Going Camping? Survival Tips

You should know TCP/IP, DNS and networking before attending a Win2K boot camp. The concepts are simply too difficult for non-Einsteins to pick up in the allotted time. If you are an Einstein, however, feel free to skip this part.

If you have a laptop, bring it. Intense had its own test-prep materials, as do some other camps. I could’ve done all my work in the classroom, but having the laptop allowed me to load the software and do some of my studying in my room. The change of pace was quite welcome. There was no Internet access in our class, so my Toshiba was also invaluable for checking e-mail.

Read over the exam-prep books before you get to camp. Every boot camp provides students with a set of books at least several weeks (I’d hope, a month or more) before camp starts. In my class, only a few students had done more than crack a book or two. Reading over the material beforehand, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Win2K, will reduce that “I have no idea what the instructor’s talking about!” feeling and will give you the opportunity to ask focused questions on fuzzy topics. Also, you probably won’t have time to do much more than skim the books once at camp.

While at camp, take advantage of the little amount of free time you have. A couple of nights, I couldn’t study any more, so I watched a movie from the hotel’s extensive list. The mini-break did much good for my state of mind. Don’t forget “The Shining”: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

“It depends on what areas you live in,” she said, adding that if you interview for a network job and don’t have an MCSE, “You’re not going to get hired.” This, of course, is patently false and demonstrates the type of misleading information many companies use to try to recruit students. Certifications can certainly help, but are almost never the sole determining factor in hiring.

This type of over-promising is also evident on the Intense School Web site. There’s an audio clip of an instructor or other company employee who says one of the school’s students was making $33,000 per year, but within six months of getting certified at Intense, he got a job making $93,000. That may be true, but it’s certainly an extreme example, and it’s the kind of story that’s helped drive the certification frenzy.

The Roster of Candidates
Shortly thereafter, I received a call from my future instructor. (He didn’t know I was with the magazine at that time, and I didn’t tell him.) He wanted to know a little about my background and my experience with Windows NT and 2000. He then recommended some areas for me to bone up on before camp, specifically DNS issues and how they relate to Win2K, as well as Active Directory. He also recommended that I practice with Win2K prior to getting there, so I could get the most out of my camp time. That was something I hadn’t expected, and that personal attention was much appreciated.

Class in the Columbus, Ohio hotel started each morning at 8:30. The first day the instructor introduced himself and laid out his company’s philosophy.

“What we do is train. As you prepare for your test, you’ll be learning.” He then passed along the same pie-in-the-sky post-certification salary stories found on the Web site. “I’ve heard of people with a $30,000 salary—they come here and get their MCSE and triple it. I’ve seen it happen.” Again, it may have happened (once), but it’s far from the norm. Intense School does a disservice to its students with these kinds of claims.

The students next gave their backgrounds and reasons for attending. A number of them mentioned that being certified, or having employees who are, is important to their business. Several consultants said they’ve missed out on jobs because they or their employees aren’t certified, even though they’re often more qualified than somebody with the title. One attendee said he wanted certification because his company was laying people off and he wanted to be more employable if he were next.

Most had strong computer backgrounds: There were network administrators, consultants, and remote- and end-user support techs. Most had very limited Win2K experience; only a few had worked with Win2K anything more than superficially. I didn’t divulge my assignment or job; I just said I was an NT 4.0 MCSE, worked with a publishing company and wanted to learn more about Win2K (which also happens to be true). Interestingly, few attendees said they were there to learn the ins and outs of the new OS; the goal of most was to “get my MCSE.”

In all, it appeared that everyone present had the requisite background to tackle the boot camps. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption.

The Cramming Begins
The first two days involved learning about Win2K Pro and Server and getting my first significant exposure to AD. Class time ran at least 11 to 12 hours each day. Following that was cramming time, going over the Intense School practice exams, and getting ready for the first two tests: 70-210, Win2K Pro, and 70-215, Win2K Server. I mostly worked on the practice tests in my room on my laptop; I couldn’t stand to be in the classroom, with my butt glued to that chair, one more second than necessary. The only non-Win2K time we had was during breaks for lunch and dinner.

Lining a table along a classroom wall were boot-camp survival essentials—snacks and drinks of every stripe, including candy bars, popcorn, beef jerky (one of the most popular items), Ho Hos and 10 flavors of soda. Somewhat ominously, there were also bottles of Pepto-Bismol and TUMS antacid pills.

After two days of class, it was apparent my instructor was first-rate; he knew Win2K backward, forward and sideways. His explanations were clear, and he was able to answer any question thrown at him. He was also more than a paper MCT. His knowledge of computers and networking in general was deep and came from long experience.

During the first two days, he stressed the ways Win2K differs from NT; it’d be important to know for the tests, he said. The topics, naturally in this environment, were covered very quickly. Basic networking took two-and-a-half hours, and we whipped through group policy and installs in what seemed like the blink of an eye. My sense was that students wanted to ask more questions, but were somewhat afraid to, knowing there was so much material to cover and so little time. The instructor didn’t discourage questions at all, but his answers were oftentimes more brief than some would like.

After two days of class, the first day of testing arrived. We took two tests; 70-210 at 11 a.m. and 70-215 at 7 p.m. The Pro test was difficult, but would prove, by far, to be the easiest of the lot. Passing was 540; I got a 640. By my count, only one person didn’t pass 70-210 on the first try. One student got a perfect 1,000; he said it was just like the NT Workstation test. I took that test, and I’d have to disagree with him; I thought Win2K was much harder.

I was so busy prepping for Win2K Pro that I didn’t start cramming for Server until after lunch. After five hours of doing practice tests (reading the books wasn’t encouraged as a test-prep tool, with good reason), I took the Server test. The passing score was 660. And 660 is what I scored. Whew! I was sure I’d failed about halfway through. Several more people bombed on the Server test, which was harder by an order of magnitude than the NT 4.0 Server test.

For those who passed the first two, there was a small window of time to celebrate. For those who didn’t make it through one or both, it was back to the books.

Those with NT experience generally passed the first two, as there are a number of similarities between the two OSes. That was all about to end, though. We were about to sail into uncharted waters for most us—the Bermuda Triangle known as Active Directory.

After taking the first two tests, it was easy to see why our instructor emphasized using the Intense School practice tests instead of the Exam Cram books as our main preparation tool. The tests have full explanations of correct, as well as incorrect, answers. They map the test objectives closely, and I’m sure I would have failed both exams without those practice tests.

The practice tests themselves needed a lot of work, though. In fact, the very first question on the first test, about minimum hardware requirements for Win2K Pro, was wrong. The tests were filled to overflowing with grammatical and spelling errors, which was especially annoying for a magazine editor; more than that, some questions were extremely confusing, omitting important words or even portions of sentences. At the end of a question on the Server exam, for instance, I was asked to “Choose all that apply.” Then you were asked to “Choose two” answers. Which one was it? On one of the Win2K Pro tests, I was asked to choose two answers from a group; but scoring the question immediately showed that three correct answers were expected.

The information presented on the practice tests was, on the whole, excellent, but the presentation was terrible. Intense School is aware of this deficiency and says it’s taking steps to resolve it.

The training was, for the most part, hands-off rather than hands-on. We went through some basic procedures (for example, adding a snap-in to the MMC, setting up a basic DNS zone, implementing a certificate service and so on), but there simply wasn’t time to do any thorough training on the technology. Labs, too, were non-existent, due to the same constraints.

They Start Falling
The next two days were spent learning AD. No one present, as far as I could tell, had more than a nodding acquaintance with the engine that makes Win2K go. The days were extremely long. I marveled at our instructor’s ability to keep going and stay coherent. It’s more than the rest of us could do.

An interesting phenomenon occurred at about 4 p.m. on our lecture days. Eyelids would get heavy, heads would start bobbing forward, and a general malaise descended on the class. It was as if our craniums had absorbed all the information they could and no more could be taken in. Our instructor could sense that and would release us for a five- to seven-minute break. In reality, we never took less than 15 minutes. Most of the class would congregate out in front of the hotel and smoke, talk, or smoke and talk. At those moments, dragging ourselves back in to that room took serious willpower.

After two days of AD training came the next two tests: 70-217, Implementing and Administering a Directory Services Infrastructure, and 70-219, Designing a Directory Services Infrastructure. Again, they came on the same day. About a half-hour into the 70-217 test, one guy, who’d struggled through the first two tests and hadn’t passed either, got up from his chair, turned his test in and left the boot camp for good. He was probably the least equipped coming in, although he did work in IT. I’d talked with him several times, and a number of us tried to encourage him to keep going. After bombing the second test, he was contemplating leaving; the third one convinced him.

I passed 70-217 with a score of 720; 651 was needed. I was getting by, although not by much. That was OK, though. On these brutal tests, a pass was a pass, and I’d take it every day and twice on Sunday. My unofficial count had seven people out of 15 failing this test. AD was starting to take its toll.

Shortly after the first test, the class gathered for a cram session with the instructor to prep for the AD design test, which everyone feared—and with good reason. At the beginning of the session, a second student decided he’d had enough and left. This student was older and nearing retirement age. He’d taken NT 4.0 tests, although he wasn’t an MCSE, and worked mainly in user support and hardware. He passed the Win2K Pro test easily, failed the next two, and decided that was enough. Two down after three tests.

Their decision to give up and leave points out a significant problem with boot camps: time compression. There’s so much material to cover that it must, by necessity, be done quickly. However, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for questions. That leaves a number of choices, all of which are unappetizing: Keep the breakneck pace going and keep some attendees confused about important concepts; slow down and make sure there’s full comprehension and miss covering other topics that may appear on a test; or cover the material, answer the questions, and stay longer in class. The problem is that it leaves less time to work on the critical practice tests, unless you’re prepared to go almost without sleep.

In a boot camp, fatigue can become your enemy. If you don’t understand something, you can put in extra time one-on-one with the instructor (ours was only too happy to do this), take extra practice tests, or spend extra time going through the books. Those efforts can dramatically increase the risk of physical and/or mental burnout. Being sleep-deprived doesn’t lend itself to doing well on the test. But neither does being poorly prepared.

Also, if you fail a test, you have to start preparing for the makeup. At the same time, you have all the new material to assimilate for the next test, which takes an enormous amount of time. Failing more than one or two tests probably means you won’t get your MCSE during the boot camp. Even failing one test puts your certification in jeopardy.

The second test, 70-219, was like no test I’ve ever taken. You’re presented with case studies and have to extrapolate from the information given what kind of AD set-up a company should implement. The Transcender practice exams provided by the school for this test were laughably inadequate. They presented scenarios just like the actual tests, but the real test questions were so much harder than Transcender’s that I didn’t use them at all for any other design tests.

AD Design was the hardest test I’d ever taken—and that includes the Law School Admission Test from a decade ago. But it wouldn’t even be the hardest test I took during the boot camp; that was coming up next. Passing score for the test was 613; I managed a 638. Another near miss, but I wouldn’t have been any happier with a 1,000. I was four-for-four—so far, so good.

One week into camp, another student left. He did well on the first couple of tests and struggled on the next two. He was convinced he wouldn’t pass another test and wanted to work with Win2K more in a real-world environment before tackling any more exams. We were halfway through the camp, and 20 percent of the students were gone.

A Taste of Failure
My first crash and burn test was 70-222, Migrating from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. Passing was 687 for my version of the test, and I managed a 538. Not even close. The irony is that I felt more prepared for that test than any other I’d taken. Many in the class failed this one as well, so I didn’t feel so bad. I decided to study for a few more hours and re-take the test the same night. I had no desire to try it again, but I couldn’t afford to get behind on the tests. There just wasn’t enough time to study for a makeup exam and prepare for the next new test.

The makeup test, which I took about five hours later, was similar in some ways to the original. I saw many of the same questions, but many different ones as well. The familiarity helped, though. I passed it the second time—by a grand total of five points. But, as everyone felt at this point, passing was the only goal. I was back on track.

On the second Tuesday of camp, my instructor became Charlie Brown’s teacher. Remember her? I was sitting in class learning about DNS Forwarders, recursive queries and who knows what else. After nine straight days of filling up my brain with new information 15 to 18 hours per day, I couldn’t process any more. The instructor was talking, but I only heard the “wah-wah-WAH-wah” noises Charlie Brown’s teacher makes. I was unable to make sense of the sounds; he might as well have been discussing DHCP exclusion ranges in ancient Babylonian. When I looked around, I saw that other students had the same glazed, exhausted looks. I felt like I couldn’t assimilate another word; but, somehow, meaning had to come before the tests did.

The last dropout from the class came just a couple of days shy of the end. He left without warning in the middle of the night; in fact, he’d been studying with another student just a few hours before checking out. It was reported later that day that he had to leave for a job-related emergency. That seemed plausible, yet it was tough to shake the feeling that there may have been more to it than that. He’d also struggled lately and failed some tests. That reduced the class to 11, out of 15 original students.

Thursday and Friday were the last two days of exams. It was a good thing, too. Most everyone was ready to run screaming out of the hotel in which we’d been holed up like fugitives for the past two weeks. I passed 70-216 with little margin of error: Passing was 620, I made a 660. That left one test: 70-221, Designing a Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure. I’d heard it was the hardest test of all.

However, due to poor planning on my part, I had just one hour to take the three-and-a-half hour exam. Given that little difficulty, I didn’t do badly and only missed passing by a few questions. That gave me confidence that with some more study (and more time to take the test), I’ll get through it.

So, during my time at the Intense School boot camp, I passed six out of seven Win2K tests. If I’d spent more time on the last one, I believe I would have obtained my credential during the camp.

Value of a Boot Camp
Now the big question: Was it worth the two weeks of torture? For me, the answer is yes. I nearly achieved my MCSE, and I learned a great deal about Win2K, AD, and the other new Windows technologies.

Has the experience qualified me to work as an administrator on a Win2K network? Absolutely not. Although I have a much better theoretical knowledge of Win2K, I feel that once I get my MCSE, I’ll be a paper Win2K MCSE. The hands-on experience still isn’t there. If I’d had a year or so Win2K administration under my belt before going to the camp, I believe I’d be ready. I would feel confident, though, being a junior administrator and applying the theory I’ve learned to the day-to-day operations side of things.

As for the tests themselves, it’s clear that practical experience isn’t a necessity to pass these tests, any more than it was to pass the NT 4.0 tests. It’s true that the exams are significantly harder, especially the design tests. Having experience will help tremendously, but it still isn’t a requirement for passing. Win2K certification won’t eliminate paper MCSEs, although I suspect it’ll cut down on their number significantly. It’s clear that Microsoft has put a lot of thought into the new certification, but until it starts forcing testers to take some kind of lab practicals, the problem of under-qualified, over-certified individuals will continue. The best method, same as ever, is to have both the experience and the certification.

One other word of caution: Not everyone is cut out for the boot camp experience. The environment is high-pressure; if you’re not the type of person who thrives in that type of setting, avoid boot camps at all costs. Prepare slowly for your certification. Our instructor said it was extremely rare to lose four people out of a class, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 20 percent to 25 percent attrition as normal for a boot camp. At Intense School, as in some other boot camps, you’re allowed to attend the camp as often as necessary until you get your certification, but I know that I wouldn’t want to go through that pressure-cooker again.

As for Intense School, specifically, my overall experience was positive. My instructor was outstanding; the hotel accommodations were comfortable (all creature comforts were attended to, leaving plenty of time for class and study); and it didn’t accept me when I pretended to be an unqualified applicant. It still suffers from some misleading advertising (although it’s hardly alone in over-promising the life-changing effects of a certification) and error-filled, but still very valuable, practice tests.

As for my classmates, fewer than five, by my count, passed all seven tests during the camp; only two or three passed all of them on the first attempt. My instructor said the pass rate for our class was 90 percent, which speaks well of his teaching ability and our learning ability. I’ve been in contact with a number of the students; on the whole, they’ve been very satisfied with their experience and Intense School.

Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t look favorably upon boot camps, claiming it’s not the best way to get certified. That may or may not be true, but the reality of my two weeks was that most students reached the goals they set out to achieve.

Company Locations Cost Days Includes Not Included # of Test Vouchers
Acrew
800-770-2254
Evergreen, Colorado 12 days: $7,695; 16 days: $9,995
12 or 16
Hotel, all meals, snacks.
7
ASAP
877-772-1771
Orlando, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif. $5,495
20
Continental breakfast at hotel, snacks. Hotel, lunch, dinner.
7
ETEC
800-798-3832
Albany, New York; Houston, Texas $9,950x
14
Hotel, breakfast, lunch, snacks. Dinner.
7
Focus Learning Systems
800-826-7817
Tallahassee, Florida 12 day: $6,950; 16 day: $7,950
12 or 16
Hotel, breakfast, lunch, snacks. Dinner.
7
Global Knowledge
800-268-7737
Multiple centers in 10 states $8,995
14
Snacks. Hotel, meals.
Up to 14
Infogem
877-850-4847
Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto (Canada) $5,665
15
Lunch, snacks. Breakfast, dinner, hotel.
7
Intense School
800-330-1446
Columbus, Ohio; San Diego, Calif.; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; New York $8,490
14
Hotel, breakfast, lunch, half the dinners, snacks. Half the dinners.
7
Mountain View Systems
888-525-6273
Ft. Collins, Colorado 12 day: $8,500; 16 day: $9,500
12 or 16
Hotel, breakfast, lunch, snacks. Dinner.
7
Learn IT!
415-693-0250
San Francisco, Calif.; Phoenix, Arizona $8,500
18
Breakfast, lunch. Hotel, dinner.
7
Reef Technologies
866-733-3555
West Palm Beach, Florida $8,495
14
Hotel, breakfast, lunch, snacks. Dinner
7
Technology Outfitters
877-464-1482
Billings, Montana $7,500
14
Hotel, all meals (through a food allowance), snacks.
7
The Training Camp
877-838-6273
Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, Nevada; London, England $7,495
14
Hotel, breakfast, lunch, snacks. Dinner.
7
Wave Technologies International
888-204-6143
10 in U.S. $10,495
15
Snacks Hotel, meals.
Up to 14
* Number of vouchers provided with tuition. After that, the student must pay for any additional test-taking vouchers.

If your aim, like some in my class, is to get certified quickly to minimize time away from business, boot camps are an excellent way to do that. If your goal is to get your MCSE so you can be a career-changer, forget it—you’ll never pass the Win2K tests without at least some tech background. If you’re immersed in technology every day and want to learn more about Win2K, boot camps can give you a solid base upon which to build. Be aware, however, that you won’t get the hands-on experience you may desire. There simply isn’t enough time to work with the OS extensively. If you have solid Win2K experience and want to get certified or broaden your knowledge of weak areas, a boot camp might be perfect.

Just remember one thing before making your decision: They don’t call it a boot camp for nothing.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Jul 21, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous

nifty

Wed, Jul 20, 2005 Anonymous CT

Excellent Article I agree hands on is the best approach to getting the most out of the MCSE certification process. Build your own network, use MS virtual sandbox, and study the material.
Cheers

Thu, Apr 8, 2004 Gary Anonymous

I noticed you didn't mention GlobalNet Training in your list. I attended their 9 certification 14-day Microsoft training boot camp and it was an incredible experience. I was exhausted but passed all my exams. I liked your article, but couldn't help but want to mention GlobalNet Training as an alternative.

Sat, Aug 23, 2003 Jim Oklahoma

I am fixing to leave for Intense MCSE Security in 2 weeks. This information will ease the tension of what to expect Thanks.

Wed, Jun 4, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I went to the Training Camp. It was right on. I thrived in the environment. I work with Win2k at home everyday. I 'play' with computers alot, but have never held a job as an 'administrator'. However, I have worked in communications for over ten years and many of the concepts were not or are not knew to me. I must say that I learned alot during my time at the camp, but real world hands on is what I need. It has been said that an additional week would be of great value, but cost prohibitive. I beg to differ, the value would far outweigh the cost.

Mon, May 6, 2002 cale seattle

great story for someone who is considering a boot camp

Fri, Mar 22, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

good article

Tue, Feb 5, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Many comments reside around the training camp. Using Troy Techs as a hand out to students is the wrong way to teach anything except the test to students. This may not occur anymore , but even the thought of a "training" facility offering this means to their students is cheating the industry.

Sat, Nov 24, 2001 Mario California

The Article was great, and answered many questions i had regarding the boot camp alternative. Thanks so much for the inside information, Keith! I'll stick with my study guides, my lab and my smokes. $10,000.00, WOW. With that much money these students could've built themselves a few *sweet* systems, purchased all the software/study materials, network them and when you're finally finished, you won't sweat like ah pig when your boss TELLS *YOU* to create those MSI's and assign them to the district sales OU. However, I won't give the boot camps too much of a bad rap. For the savvy techs who want to dish-out another cert, it seems to be very appealing, definitely doable and worthwhile. My rating for the tough training-boot camp is good, BUT! It depends...it ALWAYS depends buddy!!

Fri, Nov 16, 2001 degobar uk

this has confirmed what i had always thought about boot camps, that they teach you how to pass the exams and not how to be a real systems engineer. I have friends who have very little Win2k experience and it would be foolhardy for them to even consider parting with some heard earned cash to complete a 'paper mcse' course.

Wed, Nov 14, 2001 Kevin Dallas

Went through GlobalKnowledge boot camp. Class of 6.. very very knowledgable instructor. We finished in 10 days (4 days early). I would recommend to anyone with hands-on with it.. surely not for first-timers.

Tue, Nov 13, 2001 Gator Anonymous

Article is right-on about intensity, however, it paints boot camp programs with too broad a brush. I think success - in terms of both certification, as well as increased knowledge - is mostly dependant upon the quality of the instructor. I recently attended camp at Mountain View Systems. The entire class of 12 passed all exams (my lowest score was 860). Unless you are a complete idiot, James Carrion will teach you the fundamentals of Win2K and you'll have the knowledge to pass your exams and receive your credentials.

Tue, Nov 13, 2001 Chris PA

It was tough! I attended the same class as Keith. One thing I would like to add is this...The pressure of the boot camp is no different that the pressure you feel as a Network Engineer, when your organization is down and the IT director and the rest of the company is waiting for you to get them running again In a funny way, the class is a side prep. for the "Real IT world".

Tue, Nov 13, 2001 Tom Wright Pittsburgh, PA

A boot camp isn't for everyone. A good teacher is key. Our teacher was excellent. During the class I had two impacted teeth which caused me to miss a day because the pain medications made me incoherent. I studied between the time the pain started and the next knockout pill kicked in. I had to leave, in the afternoon, the next day to have the teeth pulled out. You should have seen and heard the expressions, like "holy something", as I walked into class the next morning unmedicated swollen jaw and all. I wanted my MCSE! I took 2 tests in one day to catch up. The course is a major cramfest. After the course I spent many days in a lab reviewing the material so I would really know it and remember it.
About my teacher, Linda, I can't say enough good things, but thanks for being so motivational.

Tue, Nov 13, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

Matches my experience

Mon, Nov 12, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

I've been through Intense School's bootcamps for NT 4.0 MCSE and Win2k MCSE in Ft. Lauderdale. The description of the experience in this article is right on. The training and tests are very tough and you will want to quit. If you can endure it, the boot camp will help you get the job done.

Mon, Nov 12, 2001 Bobi Varner Canada

I would have throught myself capable of the boot camp style training but after the article it put it into perspective. I have been on W2K for a year, I have been using AD for 2 months but doing my MCSE in 6 months of 10 hour days was tough I remember the Charlie Brown teacher syndrome, so thank you. My MCSE is not critical but when I troubleshoot client sites it is useful to understand their environment and eliminate that before attacking the software.

Wed, Nov 7, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

Interesting and informative.

Tue, Nov 6, 2001 Alan Alaska

Good Article.

A couple things not stated in the article regarding Intense Schools boot camp (I was in the same class as Keith):
The lab was open 24/7 for you to use. The instructor highly encouraged us to feel free to beat the network up after hours and experiment. If you messed it up he could reimage the next morning.

The other students were excellent help. It was a very encouraging atmosphere. Very little to no competition and everyone helped everyone else.

On the first weekend they took us to gameworks and gave us gamecards and paid for all the food/beverages. A couple other times during the bootcamp including after it was over they took us out for non-catered food.

They treated us extremely well. There was a guy named Jim whos function was to make sure food was always on time, the snack bar was stocked, do testing make sure we were happy and had all the proper things to focus - they even had rolls of good brand toilet paper for your hotel room and if they didn't have a basic necessity or a snack you wrote it on the board and Jim would hunt it down for you. One request was "any energy drinks you can find". He found three different brands and kept them well stocked for entire bootcamp.

It was the most stressful 2 weeks of my life, 16+ hours a day of studying or being in a classroom. Thinking back I was very happy with the experience and with Intense School as a whole. On top of it I made some friends also..

Mon, Nov 5, 2001 Tom W North Carolina

I just got home today from the Intense School in Ft Lauderdale and I had a great experience! Yes the two week were hard, but going into it you had to expect them to be. Should everything be a summer camp? I was in a class of 19 and 14 walked out with there MCSE including me. two of the people in the class shouldn't have been there and even admitted they lied about there level of experience. I enjoyed this school and found it well worth the money. The instructor was very knowladgeable and I learned more than "the test". I would recomend Intense School to anyone!

Fri, Nov 2, 2001 Todd Becker Reading, PA

I thought the article was great!! I considered going to a boot camp but elected to take the MCSE track here at Penn State Berks Campus. The 7 classes run from Sept 01 thru May 02.

It came down to cramming the information into my head or learning the material with lots of hands on experience.

Fri, Nov 2, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

Very informative! This artical answered all my questions on boot camps

Fri, Nov 2, 2001 Daniel Chicago

It was the toughest two weeks of my life, but it was the most productive. No distractions and complete concentration on the task at hand (MCSE). Green is good. Sign me up for W2K

Thu, Nov 1, 2001 Ed Richmond, Virginia

I attended the same school in the class right after Keith. Out of 15 students we also had 3 leave. Eight people got their MCSEs, four passed all tests the first time. I thought it was a great class and a great experience. I went into the Boot Camp with 3 months of book cramming and hands-on training. I would recommend that everyone do it that way. You need to understand Win2K and work with it BEFORE showing up to Boot Camp to get the most out of it. Their excellent instructors just polish your knowledge and guide you in the ins and outs of taking the Microsoft tests. There is no way you can learn this material in two weeks.

Great article!

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Bacchus MI

Great article.. I agree with your points .. Not all camps are equal, BUYER BEWARE, Out of 16 in our class, 3 people got 6 of 7 (including me) .. and some got as little as 3. Many people are not cut out to maker it thru a boot camp.. Those who are feign in heart stay away!!!

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Dan Grand Rapids, MI

The article was right on regarding the highs, lows and stresses of Boot Camp. I atteneded the Acrew W2K upgrade this summer, and had an excellent experience. The instructor was outstanding. Everything we needed (including snacks) was right at our fingertips. The structure was slightly different, we had time every evening for lab and study including Transcenders. For me, family and work obligations would have made it hard to get my certification in less than a year, the boot camp format really worked to help me learn and update my cert.

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

excellent

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Yalampa Orlando, FL

Great Article. I attended a 14 day bootcamp recently with much the same experience (long hours, burnout, student drop-outs). T o make matters worse, this bootcamp was the first (unbeknownest to me) for the provider I had chosen. What a mess!

By the end of the first week very few of us had passed, and we were all becoming quite concerned. Unfortunately this bootcamp relied soley on lecture and labs, which is definitely insuffificient to pass the exams. Several of us scoured the Net and found good study materials. We began a program of selfstudy away from the classroom - returning only to test or ask questions of the instructor. I smashed the AD Design test with an 847!

Faced with the possibility of leaving the bootcamp uncertified - the entire class changed tatics.

All but three students (myself included) who remained in the bootcamp became certiified before leaving.

One of the three had very little administrative experience. The other two
are now also MCSE.

I (one of the two) had 70-216 kick my butt, however I tested with an 800 yesterday completing the Win2K MCSE oddessy.

Bootcamps are great opporutinities to escape the distractions of home a work to focus on the goal of MCSE certification,
don't expect a cake walk, find lots of practice exams to take and you can do it!

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 paul san jose

I went to a boot camp (Intense in SD) and didn't do well at all. I did feel that they lured me in pre-maturely. I should have had a better handle on w2k before attending. With that said, I do believe this is the way to get your MCSE. There is too much information to remember to pass all 7 test without structure. If you have a good background and most of the training before hand then go to the school just for testing. It would be a good way to review for each test.

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Dennis Litjens London

A well writen and clear article. It conveys the misery of the hard pressed student well, and does a lot to temper the inflated claims of the vendors. The illusions of an 'easy fix' are destroyed by the author, and illustrates the hard work involved.

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Tom UK

I have done SQL Boot Camp (with Wave) - luckily there were only 3 students, and only 2 exams to pass. Lots of labs, lots of great tuition - and I had 3 years of SQL experience to back me up. I passed both exams - but will do Win2k stuff on a self-study basis (until I get some more experience in it!)

Wed, Oct 31, 2001 Tim Ca

I attended The Training Camp in Las Vegas, one person dropped out after the first few days due to lack of basic computer skills. We preformed hands on labs every night gaining valuable hands on experience. We still had time for plenty of rest; the instructor gave us insight on things that weren’t written any were but gained by his own experience. Plus enough breaks and the instructor asking questions with feed back from students our nice small class that started out as 8, 6 of us achieved MCSE. The one person that did not make it but stayed until the end, failed his test by only just a couple of questions. He also didn’t want to take a retest there in hopes the company he worked for would pay for the retest once he got back home. I found it well worth the money.

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Igvgdph LA

Good, complete info - I took the Wave MCSE boot camp for NT4.0. Most intense 2 weeks of my life! As one said, they don't call it boot camp for nothing. I interested in taking the Accellerated Test.
I may do it in a boot camp setting.
Any info on this camp?

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Paul Johnson Port St. Lucie, FL

I agree with Sebastian and think that this is a stereotype of all boot camps. I attended Intense School Boot Camp back in 2000 for NT and YES, it was two weeks of utter hell..... no labs, days were way too long (I mean you can only comprehend for so long) and very stressing-----I did not pass all the classes and I believe out of 12 other students, only 4 left as MCSE.....
I have a friend that works for a company that is near one of Intenses location and they were planning on sending 3 of their employees to a boot camp. He knew I had attended NT and asked me what I thought which I gave him my experience. They ended up "shopping around" and located another training company (email me) that offered the same type of camp for under 7000 and there were only 5 people in the class total. He said 4 passed all 7 exams and the other one missed only one the first try, but passed it on the retake. They did labs, practice tests, and he said it wasn't an overwhelming experience. I enjoyed this article as it was completely accurate of Intense School, but from hearing other peoples experiences from attending other boot camps, I do not think all boot camps are that "bad".
My advice for those considering boot camp training would be to shop around. There are plenty of schools that do not overcharge for training. I mean come on, 10K for two weeks? It is training, not heart surgery. I would never spend that much again (I can't , I am still paying off the student loan from attending NT)

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 James Yokota AB Japan

Excellent article. I attended Mountain View Boot Camp for Win2k and had a little different experience than yours. James Carrion not only prepared us for the exams, but also assisted us in learning the practical nuts and bolts. For those things I didn't have a handle on, I spent many ours after class doing labs and playing with the OS to fully understand. I passed all exams the first time around....and yes the tests were difficult, but I was prepared. I had been playing around with Win2k on my home network for about 6 months and was thoroughly familiar with NT 4.0. 100% of the class passed, although several people had to retest several times, and you could tell they were seriously stressed. For certification I prefer the bootcamp, but only with some experience with the subject before attending. I also attended Mountain View for the NT 4.0 certification and came to realize that the trainer, previous experience and hands on labs make all the difference in the world. James Carrion and Mountain View has to be the best or at least one of the leaders.

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Sebastian Elawny Calgary, AB

The article itself is excellent and well written. I am quite impressed with how well Mr. Ward captures the emotional highs and lows of a Boot Camp. Before I mention the differences, I would like to clarify that I work for a BootCamp company. We have put several hundred people through Microsoft BootCamps over the last three years and in that time, there has never been a dropout in one of our courses (which must be difficult to believe after reading this article). Also, these certification rates are not indicative of the type of success that our BootCamps have had. The average person in a BootCamp should not fail more than 1 exam en route to acquiring their certification - If the instructor is doing a good job of facilitating the BootCamp, a student will not attempt an exam unless they are sufficiently prepared. For a BootCamp to be complete, certification should be attained prior to completion. Of the several hundred students I have seen through our programs, less than a handful (<5) have left without acquiring their full certification. Interestingly, as a training company, we admit that the reason for our success is based on our customized lab manuals.

In conclusion, the article is quite impressive and the feel is right-on; however, the success measured here is indicative of one company and not BootCamps as a whole.

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Chad McDaniel Melbourne, FL

Article was right on the money, I recently finished a bootcamp with similar results. We all, however, used any means necessary and ended up graduating 10 out of 13 with their MCSEs. It aint easy, and I may be a paper MCSE, but guess what? It's all the same in the real world...now my experience has a paper to back it up!

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

I have attended a CCNA Bootcamp with Global Knowledge. I chose it because the curriculum was the same as a regular class minus of coursethe lab time which is invaluable if one is going to have to work day in and day out. For me the training was enough because I need to supervise other network administrators and just wanted to know when I was being Bu..ed!! I passed -- so did the lady next to me who didn't know the difference between a DNS and a NDS server!! But she can obviously pass a test.
Anyway, do I care for boot camps - left me exhausted -mentally and physically - but the certificate erased much of it. The pass rete of my class was 75 or so. Most of us had other notable preparation tools as well... Transcender (excellent!), Sybex books - you name it we had it and the instructor was excellent too --
So overall - if you go with a reputable school and the instructor knows her stuff - Boot camps should not be opted out but considered.

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 JCBogard Central, FL

You must consider this: if you get a job, do you think you will have the skill needed to maintain and perform at the level of an MSCE. The seasoned ones are the one that make the bigger bucks. Think before you waste a lot of money, or become paper.

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Val Colorado

I have heard alot about Boot Camps and always wondered if they were worth the large outlay of dollars needed to attend one. I appreciated Keith's experience at his boot camp and thus am glad that I never went to one! Keith's descriptions of his experience were in-depth and clear. I'm afraid that I agree with Mark from King of Prussia. Buy books and study on your own. I did that for my NT 4.0 MCSE and got a promotion where I work as a result. My current manager is ecstatic that I am continuing to study on my own to get my 2000 MCSE. Great Article! Like Keith Ward, I excel in the English Language and I tire of badly worded books, study guides, and test questions. Why can't we get someone who is both technical and good at the English Language at the same time to write books and tests?

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

Good Article

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

I went to the Training Camp for my CCNA and they did a great job. I am taking a more traditional training method for my MCSE and I must say there is much more work involved. I preferred the condensed sessions and excellent trainers. The boot camps seem to attract more of the "real world" trainers, you can't be a paper MCT and get students through MCSE in 2 weeks.

Good article!

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Andrew Toronto

Great info!

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 John Alaska

Your article is right on target! I also attended the Intense Boot Camp (in San Diego) and found the instruction/instructor outstanding. We had 18 in our class and only 5 completed MCSE (including myself) during the 14 days. 1 other got his the following week. We had 3 that left and another 3-4 that felt they were mislead and did not have the qualifications necessary to be there. All in all I found the school very intense but well worth the time. I'm currently designing and installing a Win2K network for the college where I teach and the knowledge I gained at the bootcamp has been invaluable.

Tue, Oct 30, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

well written - to the point - gave
me a good feel for how boot camps
work.

Mon, Oct 29, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

Good article. I was confused on one point. It looks like you thought it was worth it; however, you did not get certified. I would have thought if you spend two weeks and 10K you are expecting to get your MCSE. I have heard the 90% number; however, you only observed 5 students passing all exams. This does not add up.

Sun, Oct 28, 2001 mark king of prussia

Forget boot camps, save your $10Grand, get the books, and do it on your own time. Dont become another paper MCSE

Fri, Oct 26, 2001 Mike Hodges Cleveland

The most important consideration is the 'drool factor' - that this article clearly articulates. The labs are what make it interesting - 14 hours of lecture? Argh.

Fri, Oct 26, 2001 Robert Capaldo Las Vegas

I've been on The Training Camp's MCSE Boot Camp and they have lab sessions every day. So it would appear that not all boot camps use the same format.

Wed, Oct 24, 2001 Anonymous Anonymous

answered all my questions on boot camps.

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